Marketing - Build an E-Mail Marketing List

Four Steps To Creating A Winning Electronic Target Audience

Email MarketingBuilding an extensive e-mail list is key for any company looking to grow its brand and strengthen customer relationships over the long term. Regular e-mail newsletters or updates help keep a company on the minds of its customers, which can be quite valuable in the ad specialty market, where a well-timed marketing idea can lead to a sizable order.

Many marketers see growing their e-mail lists as a top priority. A 2012 Marketing Trends Survey conducted by marketing and social media firm StrongMail found that 32% of respondents were working to do just that this year, making it the third biggest e-mail marketing goal, after increasing subscriber engagement (48%) and improving segmentation and targeting (44%).

"For small businesses in particular, e-mail marketing affords a multitude of other opportunities, beyond the initial exchange of a business card or a single direct postcard mailer," says Alec Beglarian, CEO of e-mail marketing company RedCappi. "Whether you are introducing new products, offering special discounts or promoting seasonal items, growing your e-mail list is vital to making sure your name gains the farthest reach."

To effectively build an e-mail marketing list, distributors need to take a multi-pronged approach, capturing names and e-mail addresses for the list at every opportunity, whether it's someone who stumbled on the company website, a prospect met at a trade show or a customer who ordered in the past.

Here are four steps to follow in order to grow the list and ensure quality addresses are being added.

Keep it Simple
Any person visiting your company website or social media pages should be presented with the opportunity to sign up for the company newsletter – that's what will turn a random visit into a potentially long-term relationship. Add a subscription form to every page of the website.

"Locate it at the top left corner of your site, as that's where the human eye will initially travel," suggests Aga Dabrowska, brand manager for e-mail software company GetResponse.

Case StudyThe company's Facebook, Twitter and comment section of any blog should also include a link where visitors can click to sign up. Using a pop-up window that appears when the visitor is about to leave your site can also be an effective tool, but one to use with caution to avoid annoying visitors.

"You shouldn't ask for too much information up-front because you will lose subscribers," says Dabrowska. "Collecting just the name and e-mail address should be enough for most marketing campaigns."

Respect Customer Privacy
Marketers must get customer permission to opt people into the e-mail newsletter. But to strengthen the relationship with subscribers further, consider being more explicit about your concerns for their privacy. "Tell potential subscribers that you respect their privacy, and link this statement to a privacy policy page," says Dabrowska.

Explaining the steps you are taking to protect their personal information can build trust and keep them reading your newsletter. However, you must make opting out simple as well, including an "Unsubscribe" option at the bottom of each newsletter that can be selected with just one or two clicks, along with an option to say why they no longer want to receive the newsletter. This allows you to learn how you can reduce drop-offs going forward while also letting customers feel like their voices were heard.

Qualify the Sign-Ups
When speaking to someone at a networking event or over the phone, wait for the opportunity to add him or her to the list when the conversation moves in that direction, asking questions like, "I cover this in my monthly newsletter – would you be interested in receiving it?"

This not only gets their permission to be added to the list, but makes your newsletter welcome and expected when it appears in their inbox. "Create a code that you put on the back of their business card so that when you are back in your office with a stack of cards to sort through, the ones with the code can be added to your list," says Ellen DePasquale, regional development director for e-mail marketing firm Constant Contact. "E-mail marketing is permission-based, and acquiring names to add to the list takes time and trust. It's not about just gathering business cards at a networking event. It is about building relationships."

While many people might sign up for your marketing list because they want to stay up on the company's latest news, often it takes offering more tangible incentives to grow your e-mail list. This could be a percent off their next order or some kind of exclusive content, such as a white paper, full research report or e-book. Trade shows and networking events present additional opportunities to offer rewards for registration.

"When hosting speaking engagements or sponsoring local events, we always have clients do a raffle or special giveaway in which prospects fill our their names and e-mail addresses in order to enter," says Amber Watson-Tardiff, COO of Legal Marketing Maven, which offers marketing expertise to small-business owners. "The sheet lets them know they will receive a bonus subscription to the e-mail newsletter, in addition to entering to receive the prize or promo item."

Distributors might also consider motivating their employees to grow the list with competitions where those who sign up the most individuals receive a prize. Consider it as a quarterly contest, and honor the winners publicly at a recognition event. This will show the importance of the endeavor to all of your employees, and allow them to see that it's a high-level company goal.

Segment the List
Calling it an e-mail "list" may actually be a slight misnomer. Effective e-mail marketing should involve multiple "lists" branching off into various subdivisions.

"Segmenting the list into different audience types and crafting the e-mail message to each is vital to the success of your campaign, and will drastically lower your chances of being identified as spam and drastically increase your click-through rates," says Amber Hauptman, interactive marketing specialist for ChooseWhat.com, an online resource for entrepreneurs.

The list can be divided in a variety of ways, including by markets, by demographics, by how much a company purchases or size of marketing budget. The respondents to a recent GetResponse survey put the greatest segmentation emphasis on interest-based preferences, with 59% citing it as a way they're planning to categorize their lists for upcoming campaigns. This type of grouping is followed by recent open rate (34.9%), demographics (32.5%) and purchase history (29.7%).